Police, politics and public safety: Letters in the Guardian 3

Saturday August 19, 2006

By Chief Constable Ken Jones

President, Association of Chief Police Officers

Craig Murray has a lot to say about something of which he knows very little (The timing is political, August 18). The police service in this country is wholly independent of politics and the government. His suggestion that the arrests we saw last week were politically motivated is wholly false. As a one-time senior diplomat, he ought to have a better understanding of the constitutional framework within which policing operates in the UK.

The police service acts solely in the public interest against individuals or groups about whom there is reasonable suspicion or intelligence that they may be engaged in criminal acts. Those criminal acts sometimes include terrorism. The police service does not target or “criminalise” any part of any community. The suggestion that this operation was timed to generate some sort of political benefit is nonsense. The independent decision to act was made in order to ensure the public were protected. Murray must know that high-level liaison between nations facing these challenges is desirable. We are facing an ideologically motivated global threat which demands a united global response.

The police service does not “harass” any religious group. Senior police officers have questioned calls to crudely profile travellers and are leading much of the work to ensure that no one community is victimised. But there is a tiny number of people who, by distorting the core messages of Islam, pose a large-scale threat to us all. We brief our staff very carefully around issues of race, ethnicity, cultures and religions to ensure that dangerous stereotyping does not influence our actions.

We carefully assess the nature of the threat and put into place measures that will contest it. Letting terrorist operations “proceed closer to maturity” could mean that hundreds, or even thousands, might die. It seems we are damned if we act and will most certainly be damned for all time if we do not. Let us remember that those detained last week are innocent until proven guilty. We now need to give the investigators, who are police officers and staff from across the UK, the time and space to establish the truth.

Finally, global terrorism investigations are extremely complex. They involve enquiries across a number of nations. To see no charges after only seven days is hardly surprising; only last year we realised that the existing boundaries of investigation were not up to the challenges posed by global terrorism and asked parliament for a radical extension of pre-charge detention. Our core criminal justice processes were designed for a different purpose and time. They must continue to evolve to adapt to the very real threat we face.

Monday August 21, 2006

By Craig Murray, London

Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, appears appalled (Letters, August 19) that I had the temerity to suggest that the police and security services are becoming politicised. Yet in this same letter, he specifically states that the police last year requested longer periods of detention without charge, and he argues that “our core criminal-justice processes … must continue to evolve to adapt to the very real threat we now face”. Mr Jones is a policeman with a deeply political agenda. His “evolution” is a continual increase of police powers and diminution of the rights of the individual. There could be no clearer example than his letter of what it is that makes me uneasy about the politicisation of the police. It used to be their job to enforce the laws, not tell us what they “must” be.

Mr Jones complains that I don’t know the facts of the current case. Every “fact” I quoted was sourced by a reputable journalist to the police, security services or Home Office. I just reversed the original spin. I see there is no letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers attacking the hundreds of articles which have hyped the threat and effectively prejudged the accused. If police sources were not so keen to tip the wink to the press on suitcases of bomb-making material, suicide videos and improbable chemistry in plane toilets, then there would have been no need to introduce a note of scepticism.

Sorry, but I can’t forget the lies fed to the media about De Menezes, chemical-weapon vests and ricin. Lies fed by the police, up to the highest levels. I am extremely grateful for the work of the police in combating the threat of terrorism regularly since their foundation. I remember with pride those policemen and women who died doing it. Mr Jones’s association has much better staff than he deserves. But he must realise that many of us do not agree that Islamic terrorism is historically greater than other threats faced by this country. I do agree there is evil ideology out there, but it comes from Bush and Bin Laden equally.

By Ruth Knox, Liverpool

Ken Jones is quite right to state that those detained last week are innocent until proved guilty and that the investigators need time to establish the truth. Yet, almost every day reputable news organisations have led with revelations of discoveries made by these same investigators. Are we to assume that all these leaks are against official policy?

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3 thoughts on “Police, politics and public safety: Letters in the Guardian

  • dharma_dude

    I can't help but remember the Gerry Conlon book and film, In the Name of the Father, when reading police protestations of their absolute integrity.

    In answer to the question, how could 4 silly kids get charged with such terrible crimes on such flimsy evidence, Conlon wrote; "I think in the end it boiled down to the fact that the lawyers were terrified of dealing with terrorist offences, uncertain about the new act, ignorant about the IRA and how it operates and overwhelmed by the blind determination of the police to get us convicted at any cost."


  • Hinschelwood

    I saw this letter in the Guardian and was struck by two thoughts:

    1) If the police really are "wholly independent of politics and the government", why is it that the priorities of the police always so closely match those of the government at the time?

    2) It has been widely reported that the Americans pressured the British police to make the arrests earlier. Are the CIA or FBI wholly independent of politics and the government? I don't think so. In that case, Ken Jones can maintain his saintly impartiality *and* the timing could have been politically motivated.

  • Chuck Unsworth

    I could barely contain myself when reading Jones' comments. He's quite obviously 'on' some substance or other.

    1. The police 'service' is not independent. It is a highly politicised body which has seen fit to make wide ranging comment (through ACPO and its members, and the Federation and its members) on a whole range of political matters – far too long to list here.

    2. It may be that his 'staff' are 'briefed', but what effort does he or his senior colleagues make to ensure that their instructions are carried out? Precious little, judging by the results.

    3. It's not the job of Jones or his investigators to establish the truth of any situation. That is the function of the judicial process. Coppers are not judge and jury – yet. (Although they clearly would wish otherwise).

    4. Is it really the case that Jones and his colleagues only realised the dangers of terrorist activity last year? What in God's name have they been doing all this time? Have they not even grasped that yet?

    5. Does Jones honestly believe that crimes have somehow changed in recent years? Murder is still murder – and has been so since Cain, I seem to recall. It's not the law that needs changing it's the mindset of these pathetic public servants that needs sorting out. We're paying these people more and more money for doing less and less. If Jones can't handle it he should step aside.

    Enough of this winging self-serving claptrap from these careerists. It's about time they showed some real moral fibre and backbone and got on with the job. I am utterly fed up with reading these idiotic and childish comments from highly paid public servants trying to weasel their way out of responsibility for their own incompetence.

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